JUUL — A New Drug Danger — Good Parenting

 

rsz juulDear Dr. Debbie,

I would like to offer a warning to parents about a new drug trend among teens. My son heard about JUULing from classmates at school so he looked it up online and wanted to share the information with me. I consider ours to be a well-functioning family, so I was both reassured that my son opened up to me about this, but also worried that many other parents may be in the dark about it. Please pass this on to your readers.

Still Parenting

 

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Dear Still Parenting,

Yikes. An e-cigarette that looks like a thumb drive, and therefore easy for even a watchful adult to miss among a teen-ager’s possessions, is on the market in a variety of tempting flavors.

Teen trends are nothing new; every generation has them going back to at least the (lavishly expensive) raccoon coat fad on ivy league campuses in the 1920’s. A very disturbing aspect of this recent trend, however, mimics the Tide Pod Challenge craze by spreading fast-as-electricity across the internet. This age group is often known for its bravado/ lack of common sense. Reckless teen logic dictates that “if adults don’t want me to use nicotine products until I’m no longer a teen, then that’s just what I’ll try to get away with doing.”

The manufacturers of JUUL claim they are marketing to adults who are already using cigarettes, however the appeal of this easily camouflaged design, which plugs into a laptop to charge, appeals to youth. The variety of sweet flavors only adds to the lure. Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, released a study confirming increased use of e-cigarettes among high school students, as well as a disturbing association showing that past use of e-cigarettes can predict future cigarette use among teens. So rather than helping adults switch from cigarettes to slightly less harmful e-cigarettes, this product has the potential to introduce nicotine to youthful non-smokers, enticing them to eventually become new smokers.

WJLA’s 7 on Your Side quoted a Fairfax County, Virginia, high school junior about JUULing at her school, “It’s in the bathrooms all the time.” Police officers have already been called in twice as often so far this year as for all of last year for incidents of vaping hard-to-detect JUULs in school. An officer commented to an assembly of parents, “They don’t know that it (JUULing) is the same thing (as vaping). They think it’s safer.”

What are the risks of vaping? For starters, regulation is lacking. According Matthew Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the FDA does have the authority to regulate e-cigarette products as of 2016, however, “the FDA delayed key provisions for an additional four years. That means highly flavored e-cigarettes will go unregulated” for the time being. The manufacturers of JUUL do not yet need FDA approval.

The surgeon general’s office has a clear opinion that nicotine, consumed in any manner, is harmful to brain development, and is highly addictive. Since the nicotine in one JUUL pod is the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes, a user faces a risk of becoming “nic sick” which is defined by Urban Dictionary  as what one experiences: “when after smoking, or vaping with high nicotine vapors, specifically a JUUL. A feeling of being lightheaded, or sick to your stomach may occur. This can also be characterized with throwing up and having a bad trip. This may make you want to quit JUULing but you'll probably just do it again tomorrow.”

The explosive rise of this dangerous and illegal activity is alarming. Dr. Mila Vascones-Gatski, a substance abuse counselor at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va., says, “We’ve seen photos of kids vaping at school.” Meghan Morean, a substance addiction researcher at Oberlin College concurs, “On Twitter, teens post about their usage in school. The most brazen of them fire up their e-cigarettes while their teachers' backs are turned.”

Parents, take note. Yet another reason for regular communication with your teen about health issues. The internet has the power to influence unhealthy behavior as much as it can keep us safely informed.

 

Dr. Debbie

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